Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre has temporarily closed to the public and suspended upcoming shows following a stall in negotiations with prospective new management.
Financial difficulties at the venue were first reported by The Stage earlier this year. It is facing multiple claims of unpaid box office revenue, with visiting producers alleging to be owed nearly £100,000 – £70,000 of which relating to a 2018 Bill Kenwright production of Blood Brothers.
In March, the producer issued a statutory demand for the money, meaning a winding-up petition could be brought if the debt remained unpaid.
Preston Guild Hall’s owner Simon Rigby said he had been in takeover talks with live music company VMS Live, but that the death of VMS founder and managing director Steve Forster last month had delayed negotiations.
In a statement issued to local news site Blog Preston, Rigby claimed the uncertainty had led him to close the theatre until VMS Live could take over its management.
“Clearly a tragedy beyond anyone’s control has led to the delay in VMS Live taking Preston Guild Hall on to the next level. The suppliers (including promoters) have simply got tired of waiting for VMS Live to take up the reins of the Guild Hall,” Rigby said.
“Under this pressure and uncertainty I am legally obliged to review the viability of Preston Guild Hall Limited (the operating company), as a number of its creditors will not wait any longer and all creditors have to be treated fairly,” Rigby said.
It is unclear how long the venue will remain closed. However, Rigby said all shows in the next two weeks would not be going ahead.
Those scheduled include Walk Right Back, a tribute show based on the music of the Everly Brothers, and a production of Verdi’s Macbeth by local opera company Preston Opera.
Rigby bought the Guild Hall and Charter Theatre from Preston City Council in 2014 for £1, after the local authority said it could no longer afford to run the venue. The building comprises two theatres and an adjoining shopping arcade. Rigby said the businesses occupying these units remain unaffected by the Guild Hall’s closure.
Other than BKL, theatre producers alleging to be owed money include Fierylight, which was pursuing about £17,000 for a production of children’s show Peppa Pig Live.
Several other producers said they had resorted to legal action to recoup box office takings in the past, with others pulling scheduled productions because of fears over payment.
Rigby has previously argued that getting paid by the venue “should not be a concern” for producers and had maintained that its future programming was not under threat.